Dressed in a bright orange pair of shorts, a navy T-shirt and a pair of black and red tennis shoes, Dylan Milburn wrapped his hands tightly around the neck of his lacrosse stick.
The young athlete was waiting patiently, a little unsure of which way he was going to go to try to catch the rubber ball flying at a low angle toward him.
The Sugar Creek Elementary School student likes to play both hockey and soccer but was up for a new challenge and a new sport — lacrosse. He and other area youngsters took part in a one-day camp put on recently by the Greenfield Parks and Recreation Department at Brandywine Park recently.
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As Milburn moved toward the right and tried to scoop up the ball with the web head of his lacrosse stick he yelled, “It’s kind of fun.”
Greg Hall, who works for the Greenfield Water Department, had an idea to introduce the sport to area kids after his son, Gabe Hall, 9, of Greenfield Intermediate School, suffered a concussion playing football.
He wanted his son to stay activity but not necessarily by playing a collision sport like football.
Hall did some research and contacted Jeremiah Schroeder, the recreation director at Greenfield Parks, and the two found there were many grants available for lacrosse instruction during in-school physical education classes. But the first step would be to introduce the sport to area students and see if there was a real interest.
An intern with Greenfield Parks, who attends Cathedral High School where both boys and girls play the sport, set up a meeting with Andy Gruber, the school’s lacrosse head coach.
After talking with Greenfield officials, Gruber and Mary Ann White, an assistant with the girls lacrosse team, volunteered to come to Hancock County and teach area youth the game.
There’s a lot of carryover from sports like soccer and basketball, and while it is different, it’s still lots of fun, White said.
Several dozen area boys and girls in fourth through eighth grades signed up for the one-day camp for $5. It was such a success, Schroeder said they hope to do it again next summer, and he’s hopeful they planted a seed to bring the sport to the area down the road.
They’re planning to have talks with existing area soccer club officials to see what the next step might be to set up a lacrosse program in the area, Schroeder said.
Gruber, who has been the head coach at Cathedral High School for 17 years said he’d love to see the sport expand to Hancock County.
Lacrosse has grown tremendously over the past 30 years, the coach said.
“It’s one of the fastest growing team sports in the nation and the way it happens is things like this.”
The idea is to expose young athletes to the sport to see if they want to learn more and keep playing.
Gruber’s high school team plays a state and national schedule where they travel all over to find schools who play the game.
Gruber suggested introducing the sport to area elementary students because they will be the ones who will help bring the sport to the county high schools within the next four to five years, if it catches on.
While the sport is physical, lacrosse isn’t any more demanding than soccer and football, Gruber said.
“It’s a contact sport, not a collision sport,” he said. “Lacrosse has all the other things that make sports great, but it’s also unique and when little kids have the opportunity to do something different, they tend to end up sticking with it.”
Lacrosse is a fast moving game where players pass a tennis-sized rubber ball via their lacrosse sticks and try to score points while the opposing team plays defense.
The camp was designed to show the young kids the basics of the sport like how to hold the stick and pass the ball.
Evan Pangburn of Greenfield Intermediate School heard of the sport before but never played it until the camp, and said it’s really fun.
He liked it enough to consider playing it in the future, should area officials be able to develop an on-going program, he said.